Interesting Bible People: Daniel
Daniel Lived Most of His Life in a Foreign Country
Daniel has a definite claim to be among the interesting Bible people He lived in difficult times but kept himself faithful to his God.
Here he tells his own story and it is not just about lions. There were plenty more interesting events in his life. Life began as a devout young man in Jerusalem.
Lion illustration by Rachel Field used with her permission.
The Beginning of Daniel's Story
Hello, my name is Daniel, well sometimes it is and sometimes it is Belteshazzar. Daniel is my proper name, my Jewish name and it means God is judge.Belteshazzar is my Babylonian name. i prefer to be known as Daniel.
Well he certainly judged my nation, but then we deserved it. After all the great things he had done for us we, as a nation had turned away from Him, the only real God and had worshipped idols just like the other nations. This is where my story begins.
I was a teenager living in Jerusalem with my three friends Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah. I don't suppose you recognise them for one minute. But maybe you will if I tell you their Babylonian names; Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego.
Yes, I thought you might know them better that way.
We four were living in Jerusalem when the Babylonians led by King Nebuchadnezzar invaded and took most of our people captive off to Babylon (present day Iraq.) We were among other young men chosen to be trained and educated in the Babylonian way. We were to be trained for three years and then to be the King's wise men.
Daniel Refuses Food from a King's Table
It was very beautiful in Babylon and we were kept in pleasant apartments. We were supposed to have meat from the king's own table but we refused it.
The king ate all sorts of food we were not permitted to eat as Jews and the meat still had the blood in it. Our guard was worried we would get sickly because we wanted to eat vegetables and drink water.
We asked him to try it for ten days and see how we looked. After that time we four were the healthiest of the whole group so he allowed us to continue.
God blessed us and helped us with all our learning and I could also understand dreams and visions.
The Captives' Song Psalm 137
Not the Right Time for Lions
Well I expect you know the story about me in the lion's den and you are wondering when I am going to tell you about it. Well contrary to popular belief I was quite an old man by the time this happened. So you will have to wait to hear about it.
The King's Dream
After our three year training period was up we were presented to King Nebuchadnezzar. The king talked to us on all sorts of subjects and we were the star pupils.
All the busy time learning had helped keep our minds off our situation as a conquered people, but always we remembered our God and prayed to him. It was my habit to pray three times a day. I would find a window that faced towards Jerusalem and pray there.
One night King Nebuchadnezzar had dreams and his sleep was disturbed. He sent for his magicians, enchanters, sorcerers and astrologers to tell him what the dream meant. They asked the king to tell them his dream so that they could interpret. Nebuchadnezzar got angry and said that unless they told him his dream he would have all his wise men killed.
They were all distraught because the king would not tell them his dream. They said,"No one could do this." A decree was issued to have the wise man killed. Some men came looking for us as we were wise men too by now. I asked what was going on.
At once I went in to the king and asked him to give us some time and I was confident I would be able to interpret the dream. We all prayed for help from God, so that we would not be executed.
During the night the mystery of the dream came to me. I praised God. I said,"Praise be to the name of God for ever and ever. Wisdom and power are His.
He changes times and seasons;he sets up kings and deposes them. He gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to the discerning. He reveals deep and hidden things;he knows what lies in darkness, and light dwells with him. I thank and praise you, O God of my fathers: You have given me wisdom and power, you have made known to me what we asked of you, you have made known to us the dream of the king."
Daniel Reveals the Dream's Meaning
I went in to the king. He asked me if I could indeed tell him his dream. I said that I could, not because I had any special powers, but because God wanted the king to know what would happen in the future.
So I told him what he had seen. He had seen a huge statue, dazzling and awesome. It was strange because it was made of lots of different metals and some clay. The head was of gold, its chest and arms of silver, its belly and thighs of bronze, its legs of iron and its feet partly of iron and partly of baked clay. While the king was watching, in his dream a rock was cut out , but not by humans. This rock struck the statue on its feet of iron and clay and smashed it. The statue was so smashed that it was like the husks from wheat and the wind swept them away leaving not a trace. But the rock that caused this destruction became a huge mountain and filled the whole earth.
Then came the interpretation of the dream.I told the king that it was God who had given the king his great power over other nations and made him rich and famous. He was the head of gold. After him would come another kindom not so powerful, and again another one. That one was the silver. Then a weaker one, the bronze. Then an iron kingdom which would smash the others. Then would come a divided kingdom, the iron and clay. Then God said He would set up a kingdom that would never be destroyed. This was the rock that was cut out. I told the king that God was showing him the future and that the dream was true and the interpretation trustworthy.
Nebuchadnezzar fell down in front of me and ordered an offering and incense. The king said to me,"Surely your God is the God of gods and the Lord of kings and a revealer of mysteries." That sounded good, but Nebuchadnezzar had a flattering tongue and seemed to honour God, but his actions said otherwise, as you will see, as my story progresses.
After that the king put me in a high position among his wise men. I asked for Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego to be given positions as administrators over the province of Babylon and I stayed at the royal court. /p>
Will They Remain Faithful?
The next part of my story is about my three friends as I was not involved. I was at the royal court and these things took place in the province of Babylon. So I will hand you over to Abednego.
Hello, I'm Abednego. We three friends were in the Province of Babylon at a time when king Nebuchadnezzar had a huge, golden statue made. It was enormous and it was set up on the plain of Dura. All the officials had to come to the dedication of it. A herald made this proclaimation, " All peoples wherever you come from, when you hear all the musical instruments play you must fall down and worship the image of gold. Anyone who doesn't will be thrown in a blazing furnace." You see how Daniel was right about Nebuchadnezzar being fickle in his attitude to our God.
We three friends looked at each other and determined between us that we would not be unfaithful to our God. We would not bow down to the image. It was terrifying to think of the consequences but we knew that our God was able to rescue us, so we just trusted in him.
The music sounded and everyone except us hurried to bow down to the image.At once some astrologers told king Nebuchadnezzar that we were not bowing down. Nebuchadnezzar was furious and we were taken to him. He gave us another chance to bow down, but we said we would not and if we were thrown into the furnace we believed our God was able to save us but even if he did not we still would not bow down to any other God.
The Fiery Furnace
Nebuchadnezzar was furious. He ordered the furnace to be stoked up and made even hotter. Some strong soldiers took us to the furnace and threw us in. The soldiers were killed with the heat but the furnace did not feel hot at all to us three and there suddenly there was someone else with us and the ropes that tied us fell off. Nebuchadnezzar saw us walking about in the furnace with our rescuer and he called for us to come out. He wanted to know who the fourth person was, because he looked like a son of God to him. We could give no explanation. Everyone crowded around. We were unharmed in every way and did not even smell of the fire. Nebuchadnezzar praised our God just as he had done when Daniel interpreted his dream. But he was always fickle.
Daniel Reveals Another Dream
Nebuchadnezzar was always having dreams. This next one made him afraid. He told it to the other wise men and they could not tell him the meaning of it. Then he told it to me, Daniel. In his dream he had seen a tree, an enormous tree. It touched the sky and could be seen from far away. Its leaves were beautiful and its fruit plentiful and it produced food for all. The beasts sheltered under it and the birds lived in its branches and everything living was fed from it. Then, he said an angel had come down and said to cut down the tree with just a stump left. He was to be drenched with dew and his mind be an animal's mind for seven times.
I told him the meaning of the dream. although I was disturbed and terrified by his thoughts. I told him that I wished the dream applied to his enemies, but it did not. He was the tree and whereas he had provided for and protected many people, now he would be driven out away from people and live with the animals - mad. His position would be restored when he repented of his sins and acknowledged that God alone rules.
A year later all this came about. Nebuchadnezzar was boasting about all the mighty deeds he had done. There was a voice from heaven saying he would be driven out to live with the animals and someone else would be king in his place.. He went out and ate the grass and his hair grew long and looked like feathers and his nails grew like claws. Much later he recovered and he said,"Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and exalt and glorify the King of heaven, because everything he does is right and all his ways are just, and those who walk in pride he is able to humble.
What about Nebuchadnezzar?
Did Nebuchadnezzar have a real faith in God?
The Writing on the Wall
Next I will tell you about King Belshazzar. He came after Nebuchadnezzar. He was just as proud and one day decided to have a big party. He was getting a bit drunk and decided to get all the gold and silver goblets which Nebuchadnezzar had taken from the temple in Jerusalem. He and all nis nobles, wives and fancy women drank from these goblets. As they drank they praised the gods of gold and silver, bronze, iron, wood and stone.
All of a sudden up on the wall there appeared a human hand which wrote on the wall. The king watched the hand and was terror struck. His knees knocked and his legs gave way. He called for his enchanters and astrologers and said that whoever could tell him the meaning of the writing would be the third highest ruler in the land and wear a gold chain. They could not tell him. He became more terrified. The queen told him to send for me. She was sure I would help. I came in and the king promised all sorts of gifts and a high position if I could explain the writing. I told him to keep his gifts but that I would tell him what the writing meant.
I reminded him how Nebuchadnezzar had been humbled by God until he acknowledged that the Most High God is sovereign. I said that although he, Belshazzar knew all this, he had not humbled himself, but had used the goblets from the temple for his party. I said this is the message the hand wrote: MENE,MENE.TEKEL.PARSIN and the meaning was that God had numbered the days of his reign and brought them to an end. He was weighed on scales and found wanting. His kingdom was divided and given to the Medes and the Persians. He insisted on clothing me in purple, placing a gold chain round my neck and proclaiming me the third highest ruler in the kingdom. That very night Belshazzar was killed and Darius the Mede took over the kingdom. He was sixty-two.
The Lions at Last
I know you have been waiting for this. I hope you enjoy it, but it was quite a test for me. Although I was old I loved my life and would have liked to keep it.
Darius appointed officials, known as satraps, over the kingdom, 120 of them. I was one of the three administrators. the king was planning to put me over the whole kingdom because I worked well. the other satraps became jealous of me and set about trying to find something against me which they could report to the king. They could find nothing, but as they had watched me closely, they discovered that three times a day I would go to a window facing Jerusalem and pray to my God. They realized this was the only thing they could find to use against me. They went to the king with flattering words and suggested that he make an edict that for thirty days no one would be allowed to pray to any god or man except the king. The king was taken in by this flattery as kings so often are and signed the edict, which could not be changed according to the law of the Medes and Persians. The penalty of breaking this edict was to be thrown in a den of lions.
As soon as I heard this edict had been signed I knew what I must do. I must stay faithful to my God and continue to worship him. After a while the officials found me praying and went to Darius and reminded him of his edict. Darius was pleased with his edict but then they told him that I had been praying to my God. He was very fond of me because we worked closely together. He was very distressed and tried to find a way to save me, putting the inevitable off until sunset. Before they threw me in the lions' den Darius said,"May your God, whom you serve continually, rescue you!"
They threw me in the den and I was praying but feeling confident that I was in God's hands and only his will would be done. I can't explain what it was like in there with those lions, all I know is that when Darius came looking for me next morning I was not harmed in any way. Darius called out to me,"Daniel, servant of the living God, has your God, whom you serve continually, been able to rescue you from the lions?" i answered,"O king live forever! My God has sent his angel and shut the lions' mouths. they have not hurt me, because I was found innocent in his sight. nor have I ever done any wrong before you, O king" He was overjoyed and gave orders for me to be lifted out of the pit. He ordered the men who had accused me to be thrown in the lions' den with their families. The lions were hungry and made short work of them. This made my escape all the more amazing. Darius honoured God. I had good times with him after this.
A Poem About Daniel
An old man full of days,
Nearly ninety they say.
The fall alone was enough to kill him,
As they dropped him in,
In where the lions lived.
A good, old man
Who had never harmed anyone.
The king's chief and best advisor.
Advisor to a foolish king
Who had let himself be tricked
Into punishing this innocent, old man.
Praying three times a day
To the Lord Jehovah.
The king had been flattered
When his other advisors
Suggested a law,
To fan his pride.
"No one must ask anything
From anyone but you,
Darius, not even from a god."
They had said.
Now Darius had lost
His right hand man
And spent a sleepless night
Hoping for what could not be.
At dawn he went to the den
And shouted hopelessly,
"Daniel, has your God been able
To save you from the lions?"
Then echoing through the cave,
Had Daniel lifted out
To safety from that place
Which had held no danger for him.
And yet those lions fed
Hungrily enough on the meal
Next provided for them.
God always stands by his children,
Even when they have to pass through death,
To be safe in his arms.
The Final Chapters of the Book of Daniel
The rest of the story of Daniel tells of the many strange dreams and visions he himself had. These relate to the "end times." He was visited by the angel Gabriel, the same angel who was to visit Mary to tell her that she would give birth to Jesus. The visions are of strange beasts who represent various world powers. The language of these visions is very similar to that of the book of the Revelation, the last book in the Bible. To help you understand this book I have listed some books above. Many of Daniel's visions can be related to world history not long after his time, but also relate to much later.